I have so far been focusing my training on the ½ marathon race in Wilmslow which took place yesterday. The 15ft snow drifts decided to leave Wilmslow alone. But the biting cold certainly didn’t.
My friends Moo and Dave treated me to the best race support in the world, living just a 15minute drive away. Staying with them the night before, I started my weekend with a hot shower, delicious food and lovely company. But, as ever, four or so hours before race, I began questioning why the hell I do this and muttering to myself ‘I HATE racing’. A 6am run in the freezing cold to ‘warm up’, shoveling down enough porridge to make me feel sick, and then watching the trees shake around in blasts of ice-air. If I hadn’t effectively left a good job for all this, I would’ve turned around and driven back to London to hide on my mum and dad’s sofa.
I’ve been driving Russell round the bend with my new pre-race ritual of needing to pee at least 5 times before a race, or even an important training session. I have no idea what’s wrong with me, but it seems to signal that I’m going to run pretty well, so I wasn’t too phased by having to dart in and out of the nearby woods before I headed to the race HQ.
Moo kept me entertained with conversation about completely unrelated topics, and I just wanted to be her so much. I wanted to be the person that comes to support someone else who is running. I can recall now that I was in fact eyeing up everybody that wasn’t in running kit and thinking what I would give to jump into their sheepskin lined boots. Russell had a race in Milton Keynes cancelled that same day. He reminded me how quickly the tables turn. If they had announced over the PA that Wilmslow wouldn’t be going ahead, I would have been devastated. Despite terrible weather cancelling races all over the country, I can say I was lucky it went ahead at all.
And it’s always a relief when the race actually starts. I remembered that I couldn’t have been better prepared for this. I’ve been training at race pace for weeks now. We had worked out a 1hr 45min target time for me and every session had gone great. Russell says it’s important to keep these things to yourself and not brag about your goals to others. Stuff like that is really hard for me, as I tend to tell everybody everything given half the chance. I had to settle on telling anyone that pretended to listen, that I was hoping to break 1hr 50mins for a PB. I told this to so many people, I started to think that this lesser goal was my real target.
I had a taper week to prepare and all that was left to do was execute. I know whether or not I’m in the right frame of mind to race as soon as I cross the start line. And it was so cold, I couldn’t help but get running with enthusiasm. 2minutes ahead of target at 10km and I was feeling relaxed, in control, and certainly warming up. The mile marks seemed to be appearing at just the right times, rather than feeling I was hanging on for dear life for them. I had certainly got my run on.
I was pleased that I had managed to move amongst runners that were taking it seriously, because I was. This means that I had left behind the couples that will natter to each-other all the way round, and those that would shout out ‘thank you marshals’ to every volunteer by the side of the road. Don’t get me wrong, that’s all very nice – and very me with another hat on – but I wasn’t on a fun run, and all that can be a bit distracting and disheartening somehow. Instead I was pretty happy with where I found myself, in the line of day-glow, snaking through the country roads. I wasn’t feeling like a hanger-on either. Some runners would pass me with great determination, only to burn out in the next mile or so. In the nicest possible way, seeing someone miss-fire their race strategy, really seems to make me feel better about mine! Other runners kept a steady pace ahead of me, and this in turn kept me in my place. I struggled to really make use of all the strength I’ve gained Fell Racing on the uphills, downhills and corners, as this race is quite packed all the way along the route, and I didn’t want to waste loads of energy weaving through people.
The trial and tribulation part came when the loop turned back into a wind I hadn’t realised had been spurring me on to the half-way point. It was so cold and biting, I thought my face and hands were going to fall off. The race began to have a tinge of trauma to it. When I hit 10miles, my plan was to pick up the pace, but I think all my efforts went into maintaining it in the face of such adversity! Russell had said that considering the weather, he’d be happy if I just finished for the training effect. Well it turns out that the 2 minutes I invested in earlier, was the cherry on top of a BIG cake and I came through the finish in 1hr 43minutes shooting my hands into the air and shouting ‘Yes, Yes’, to the dismay of the other coughing, spluttering and god damn cold runners next to me.
I felt a million dollars running so much quicker than expected. Moo was also over the moon that I finished early as she had been waiting outside for me the whole time and her feet had gone numb. I was pleased to be of service. My first half marathon took me 2hrs27 minutes, Moo would have got frostbite!
Speaking of feet, a word on footwear. Most runners shell out well over £70 for a pair of trainers. People believe they have to have an expensive pair in order to run. The massive running shoe industry thrives on it. Trainers are getting more expensive but injuries are just as prevalent.
My favourite, most tried and tested pair cost £3.69. You can’t get a pint in London for that. I run in them all the time. I ran my half marathon in them yesterday, and I ran a 30mile race in them last year, not to mention other races and hundreds of injury free training miles. And they come in this lovely pink and grey.